MADISON, Ala. (WHNT) — Monday kicked off a two-day drone event, hosted by Adorama Drones, for law enforcement and public safety agencies in Alabama.
Different suppliers came to present the latest technologies in drones. There were also live demonstrations and educational presentations.
“Drone technology is used by public safety throughout the county,” said CJ Smith, marketing manager at Adorama Drones.
Smith said the events are a great way to expose public safety organizations to the latest technology, in a way applicable to their day-to-day work.
“We have ex-public safety specialists in our team who can really speak this language and who are able to come here and speak from experience,” he continued.
Agencies can take some of the drones themselves for a test drive and see how they perform up close.
“It’s just a great way for them (law enforcement) to understand the technology and see how it could fit into their operations,” Smith said.
News 19 attended the training on Monday and saw representatives from Madison Police, Huntsville Police, Decatur Police, Scottsboro Police and many others across northern Alabama .
During the first day, Wayne Baker of DJI, a drone company, demonstrated their new model, the Matrice 30. Baker showed how the drone can help with police searches and search and rescue missions. From high in the sky, the camera attached to the drone could zoom in and track a specific car and license plate.
In addition to the technology that can help officers find suspects, Baker also highlighted how it can be used in search and rescue situations.
“When it comes to public safety, when seconds count, the ability to get that plane off the ground in seconds can be the difference between finding someone before something bad happens to them,” Baker said.
He also highlighted how drones can help members of public safety see a scene better, without having to risk their lives entering the unknown.
“These drones are saving the lives of police, firefighters and the public,” he continued.
Baker said DJI also provides drones to power companies. He said those companies, as well as public safety agencies, can use drones after severe weather to search for lost people, find the source of power outages, and survey and map damage.
News 19 also spoke with Chad Tillman, the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) coordinator for the city of Huntsville. He primarily works with the Huntsville Police Department.
Tillman said one of the biggest benefits of an event like this is allowing members from different agencies to chat and learn from each other.
“We talk together and we share how we do things and how we try to grow because it’s a learning process for everyone,” he told News 19.
Tillman also said Huntsville is in a great position when it comes to implementing and accessing drone resources.
“We actually have a number of drones,” Tillman continued. “I believe Huntsville Fire & Rescue has 6 or 7, and Huntsville Police have about 20,” he continued.
He also explained how he wanted to reassure the public about any privacy concerns regarding the use of drones. He said drones help increase everyone’s safety.
“One of the things we’ve found in using drones is that it introduces a level of security that we haven’t seen before,” Tillman said. “For example, if we have a barricaded subject, if I can put a drone in the air and go over there and give the officers a better view of what’s going on, they can gauge their response based on what they see.”
“Those first moments of contact, we can give more information to the people who make those decisions, so we actually find that it increases the safety of the citizen and the police officer,” he concluded.
Tillman also said that for a Huntsville police officer to become a drone pilot, they must already have been sworn in for at least a year.
“We want them to have a good level of experience with the public because it’s a position where the chances of interacting with the public are high,” Tillman said.
After being an officer for at least a year, they can begin the rigorous drone pilot training program.
“We want to make sure we’re doing our best,” Tillman said.
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